Who gets arrested when our "urban outdoorsman" sign holders break the law?
January 23, 2009 2:01 PM   Subscribe

What are the legalities of utilizing a homeless person/vagrant/urban outdoorsman for marketing purposes? I've read up on "Bumvertising", but other than some negative feedback from homeless persons advocates (wikipedia) what happens when one of these "employees" happens to do something illegal?

(Many people in our area make decent money holding "please help" signs at major intersections/interstate off ramps in our area during the summer)

To any of you Mefite lawyers, unorthodox employers, or anyone with vast amounts of knowledge: Who would be at fault if, say, someone holding a sign with a company's message on it were to break a law? I'm thinking like stab someone, etc. while being handed a coupon?

Who would be at fault?
•The marketing agency?
•The business being advertised for?
•Simply the person holding the sign?

The sign holder would be compensated with cash/gift cards/food, for the record.

Another question: What happens if this person is involved in an accident (being struck by a car, heat exhaustion, other job hazard)? What are there rules for this type of temporary, guerrilla employment?
posted by whiskey point to Work & Money (6 answers total)
You can be sued for anything. Winning or losing is a different story.
posted by cellphone at 2:08 PM on January 23, 2009

Response by poster: Which "you"? Any of the three parties involved?
posted by whiskey point at 2:17 PM on January 23, 2009

Best answer: I would assume that the company in question would state that the "employee" was an independent contractor, and any actions taken by them not related to advertising of the business were their own responsibility.
posted by mrbill at 2:28 PM on January 23, 2009

Best answer: "I would assume that the company in question would state that the "employee" was an independent contractor"

Yeah, that'd be my guess, although to be pedantic, it doesn't matter what the company states, it matters whether the person legally is an employee/agent. Just disclaiming it doesn't really offer any protection.

What cellphone means is that, essentially, anyone can be sued for anything at any time, period.
posted by toomuchpete at 3:35 PM on January 23, 2009

If you're hiring standards are so low you're worried about mentally ill employees stabbing customers, how good will that be for your corporate image? "Mmm..smells like poop and BO, think I'll go buy a sandwich."

I can assure you anyone making a decent living collecting money with "please help" signs isn't going to want to give your corporation a cut. Hell, working for food is cutting into their hourly take.

Taking advantage of destitute people to get the cheapest possible labor sucks. Rah rah capitalism's "freedom of contract" and everything, but you seriously deserve whatever you get.
posted by aquafortis at 3:50 PM on January 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: @aquafortis: the hiring standards have nothing to do with it, looking to save money has nothing to do with it, taking advantage of people has nothing to do with it. These people are already standing on the side of the road, holding signs - the idea behind it is some sort of shock value, not taking advantage of poor people. I agree that the actual "signers", or people who do it to make money (not their next meal, etc) make enough money to not worry about what the agency would give them, though. Again, the question is about the legal issues, not whether or not it's morally right to hire a homeless person to work for you (I can hardly imagine paying a person holding a sign is "taking advantage of destitute people").
posted by whiskey point at 8:31 PM on January 25, 2009

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